Bill Pierce


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On this excellent album, tenor saxophonist Billy Pierce leads an all-star quartet through a challenging set dominated by the compositions of Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins. Opening with "I'm an Old Cowhand" (a Johnny Mercer standard long associated with Rollins) and then diving into two Monk pieces, Pierce is in full control from the beginning, no mean feat with pieces this complex. You could argue that his gracefully Latinized take on Monk's "Bye-Ya" unduly tames the lurching charm of the melody, but his solo is so solid and assured that you end up agreeing with him by the end. Pianist Donald Brown contributes "In Walked Toot," a tribute piece based on "In Walked Bud" and dedicated to Monk's son, while bassist Christian McBride and drummer Billy Drummond have the most fun on "I'm an Old Cowhand." The quartet sounds bit tentative on "Criss Cross," an angular and forbidding Monk tune that is rarely recorded, but they explode spectacularly at the end of the disc with "Pent-Up House," a Sonny Rollins composition that they play with infectious joy. Highly recommended.

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